The New York Yankees seemed to begin to turn a corner in July and their results improved – particularly in the second half of the month.
It is difficult to analyse exacly why but strangely the results started to improve when many of their first choice roster members became unavailable and were replaced partially by untried players and partially by journeymen, perhaps spotting one final opportunity to breakthrough.
Some of those regulars were unavailable because of conventional injuries. Others were forced into isolation by positive Covid tests which hit the roster in ever-increasing numbers.
On the face of it, having to subtract Aaron Judge from the selection of available outfielders and add in Greg Allen, who in four previous stints in the Major Leagues (with Cleveland and San Diego) had managed to hit around .230, was not a recipe designed for success – but somehow the energy and enthusiasm of the new faces seemed to work.
Let’s survey the statistics of the offensive players in the month of July…
In our table, they are presented in batting average order:
|Anthony Rizzo 1B||2||5||5||4||0||0||2||2||0||3||0||.800||.889||2.000||2.889|
|Luke Voit 1B||8||26||4||10||2||0||0||4||0||4||8||.385||.500||.462||.962|
|Estevan Florial CF||7||17||3||5||1||0||1||2||1||5||5||.294||.455||.529||.984|
|Rougned Odor 2B||19||65||11||19||3||0||4||15||0||5||20||.292||.361||.523||.884|
|Ryan LaMarre OF||6||14||3||4||0||0||2||4||1||1||5||.286||.375||.714||1.089|
|Gio Urshela 3B||15||49||5||14||3||0||1||9||0||2||11||.286||.314||.408||.722|
|Greg Allen OF||13||33||8||9||4||1||0||2||5||5||12||.274||.419||.455||.873|
|Aaron Judge RF||14||55||8||14||2||0||3||6||2||4||12||.255||.328||.452||.782|
|DJ LeMahieu if||21||79||4||19||4||0||0||6||2||11||16||.241||.344||.291||.635|
|Gleyber Torres ss||21||75||7||18||4||0||3||11||5||8||19||.240||.318||.413||.731|
|Giancarlo Stanton DH||23||84||8||18||4||0||2||7||0||12||31||.214||.320||.333||.653|
|Miguel Andujar OF/IF||3||10||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||.200||.273||.200||.473|
|Tim Locastro OF||9||21||4||4||2||0||1||2||0||1||1||.190||.217||.429||.646|
|Brett Gardner OF||20||59||9||10||2||0||1||6||0||9||16||.169||.286||.254||.540|
|Tyler Wade if||11||25||3||4||1||0||0||0||2||3||6||.160||.250||.200||.450|
|Gary Sanchez c||18||64||10||9||1||1||3||6||0||10||25||.141||.267||.328||.595|
|Rob Brantly c||4||15||0||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||3||.133||.133||.200||.333|
|Chris Gittens 1B||6||15||0||2||0||0||0||1||0||4||4||.133||.316||.133||.449|
|Kyle Higashioka c||4||9||0||1||1||0||0||2||0||1||3||.100||.200||.222||.422|
|Joey Gallo of||2||8||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||3||.000||.200||.000||.200|
|Trey Amburgey of||2||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Hoy Park if||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Domingo German p||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Nestor Cortes p||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Lucas Luetge p||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Chad Green p||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|Jameson Taillon p||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000||.500||.000||.500|
|Name / Pos||G||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||RBI||SB||B||K||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
Gary Sanchez had a great month in June. In fact, we ranked him as the Yankees number 1 hitter on that calendar month. But as June turned into July, the Sanchez of April and May returned. There’s no logical explanation for that but happen it did and the Yankees are figuring out that their option for the catcher’s role are becoming increasingly limited. Sanchez batted .141 on the month, whilst still managing 3 home runs. The problem is that when the Yankees decided in May that they would make Kyle Higashioka the first choice catcher, it became apparent that he really can’t hit for average whatever his defensive strengths. In fact, in July, Higgy hit worse than Sanchez when he was avaiable. He mustered only a .100 batting average. And as usual the hit that he managed (the only hit he managed) went for a double. Higashioka really can’t hit singles and he lacks patience at the plate. He only drew one walk.
To further complicate things, Kyle had to absent himself from the 16th of July to the 27th because of the outbreak of the pandemic in the team’s ranks. On the public holiday of the 4th of July, the Yankees had given one of the catchers from Scanton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders (Triple A), Robinson Chirinos, his own personal independence day when they gave him his release. He has now signed with the Chicago Cubs and is doing okay. But in turn, this did cause the Yankees a problem because Chirinos would have been one of their options when Higashioka became unavailable. Consequently, they turned to Rob Brantly when the problems developed. Brantly, in limited playing time, also hit below the Mendoza line (.133 with a double) and was returned to Scranton on the 26th of the month.
It becomes increasingly possible that neither Sanchez or Higashioka will return to the Bronx in 2022. The Yankees may look for players who are much more consistent to fill this slot.
The infielders who became unavailable to the Yankees in July were Luke Voit (Left Knee Inflammation) and Gio Urshela (Covid isolation).
Voit, who had such a great season and led the Majors in homers in the shortened 2020 season, has seen his 2021 season become a sad saga of bouncing back from injury and then ended on the Injured List (IL) again. Prior to the 16th of July, he batted .385 with two doubles and whilst his home run swing wasn’t there, it did look like maybe he was getting stronger and going to be around for the longhaul. It didn’t work out that way.
Initially, Chris Gittens and DJ LeMahieu shared time at the first base corner. For Gittens, this was another unsuccessful spell. He batted .133 and it was particularly noticeable that he didn’t have his power stroke which was his main strength at Scranton. On the 25th, he injured himself and headed to the IL with an ankle sprain. LeMahieu dipped to a .241 batting average with 4 doubles as he split time between 1st, 2nd and 3rd base.
As the trading deadline approached, the Yankees decided to address their issues at first base. They brought in Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Alexander Vizcaino (p) and Kevin Alcantara (cf). Rizzo, a very popular figure in Chicago, has had a remarkable start in New York but we’ll talk more about that next month. The bigger short-term issue is what this means for Voit. Giancarlo Stanton may see some time in the outfield which will free up some time at DH for Voit but there don’t seem to be many other significant possibilities for Luke.
The main incumbent at second base remains Rougned Odor (Note: he recently changed his uniform number from 18 to 12). July was his best month as a Yankee and his 7 extra base hits give a hint of the reputation he is gaining as a clutch hitter. There is still no question that I would prefer to see LeMahieu as the everyday second baseman but Odor is making a better argument for his inclusion than he was a few weeks ago.
The Yankees sent Tyler Wade to the minors on the 5th of the month but with others heading to the injured list, it was only 3 days before he was restored to the roster. Whether his time away was something that was planned or just an opportunity to add extra relievers to the roster is something that we will never know. He had not been used at the plate in July prior to his demotion. When he returned, his performance was unremarkable with a .160 batting average, no extra base hits and 2 walks. Again, it is hard to think, that when the roster settles down from all the injuries and absences, he has a long-term future on the club’s roster.
Gio Urshela remains solid when he is available. In July, he batted .286 with 4 extra base hits. However, the pandemic laid him low and he isolated from the 16th to the 25th. One of the infielders who was called up to cover his absence was Hoy Park who had been doing well at Scranton but who management had said they didn’t see a role for in the majors. but needs must and he was pressed into action – or at least into a role making up the numbers. From the time he was called up on the 16th to the day he was outrighted back to Scranton on the 21st, he was given 1 at bat. Scranton, where he was a huge fan favourite, were glad to see his return, but the welcome was very short-lived. Indeed another 5 days later, he was sent to Pittsburgh to join the Pirates along with Diego Castillo (shortstop) in exchange for right-handed reliever Clay Holmes whom the Yankees seemed to display more confidence in as he was quickly added to their major league bullpen.
Many people thought that the Yankees might try to upgrade at shortstop prior to the trading deadline with the Colorado Rockies‘ Trevor Story being the main topic of conversation / gossip depending on who you listen to. Anyway, it didn’t work out that way. The idea was, I think, that Story would come in at Shortstop, Gleyber Torres would be nudged back to his stronger fielding position at second base and DJ LeMahieu would find a more regular home at the first base corner.
Instead, we have Torres continuing at shortstop and Rizzo becomes the solution to the first base problem. Torres continues to make weak fielding errors and his average at the bat is lower than you might expect or wish for. However, his power is up a little with seven extra base hits in July. Again, it will be interesting to see how they address this conundrum next season.
The Yankees had particular problems with filling their outfield needs in July. First, a left-wrist sprain made Miguel Andujar unavailable and he was placed on the 10 day IL. Aaron Judge was one of the first members of the roster to test positive for COVID and he was quarantined from the 16th. Two days later, recent signing Tim Locastro headed to the 10-day list with an ACL injury and then this was upped to the 60 day IL when more medical information was confirmed. If you add this to the fact that Clint Frazier was still unavailable with dizziness/vertigo/eyesight problems or something and you have a substantial hole to fill.
So, the solutions? The aforementioned Greg Allen, who in his previous times in the majors had not set the world alight. And then Ryan LaMarre, Trey Amburgey and Estevan Florial. LaMarre had failed to impress when he had been pressed into action earlier in the season and Brian Cashman had suggested that, in normal circumstances, Amburgey and Florial weren’t really ready for “The Show”.
Surely, it couldn’t work.
Well, oddly, for the short-term it did. Florial played in 7 games and produced a .984 OPS. LaMarre, in 6 games, hit two homers and his 1.089 led anybody in the team who appeared in more than 2 games in July! Most amazingly, Greg Allen used in 13 games, produced 4 doubles and one triple and became a great presence on the basepaths.
Sadly, the last piece in this puzzle, Amburgey only appeared in 2 games and was only given 4 at bats. The most notable thing was that he struck out twice. 4 days after his arrival, he was placed on the injured list with a hamstring strain.
In the time that he was available, Aaron Judge had a slow month. He only hit .255 but his 5 extra base hits helped out the team at important moments. Brett Gardner‘s .169 batting average just emphasised how much he has struggled this season. There isn’t a happy ending to that story.
As the end of the month and as the trading deadline came, Estevan Florial and Ryan LaMarre were removed from the roster. Florial headed back to Scranton. LaMarre was designated for assignment.
This left the Yankees space to add outfielder Joey Gallo and left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez who they had acquired from the Texas Rangers. Gallo’s start couldn’t match Rizzo as he settled into the line-up a lot slower than his new team-mate. Headed in the opposite direction were 2nd baseman Josh H. Smith, shortstop Ezequiel Duran, and another second baseman Trevor Hauver and some of those cash considerations.
One thing which is very noticeable in these temporary adjustments is how much speed it brought to the Yankees line-up. In June, they had stolen 5 bases. In July, even though some of those changes were short-lived, they brought the team 18 stolen bases. Indeed, Greg Allen and Gleyber Torres stole 5 bases each – equal to the whole roster in the previous month.
Giancarlo Stanton remained the sole designated hitter in July. He really struggled, hitting only .214 but he did spice the pot with six extra base hits. When the Yankees reached Miami, in the last days of the month, Stanton was given time in left-field for the first time since 2019. He adds a great arm in the outfield but it comes with a huge risk of the kind of injuries he suffered last time he was used in that role.